Are you an avid gardener? Or someone that loves the idea of gardening…but just hasn’t found the time for it? Or maybe you are quite content to leave the gardening to your local farmer?
I’m not ashamed to admit that my husband is the gardener in our family. He grew up on a farm and has watched his own father garden for many years.
I’d love to learn more…someday. But I keep plenty busy right now with work, raising four young kids, homeschooling, and dealing with all of the produce! I do a lot of the harvesting. Plus I’m preserving from June through November every year. Just today I canned four rounds of pearsauce (learn how here). Maybe we need to add gardening to our school curriculum to force myself to learn more. At least the kids are learning a ton helping Dad in the garden. #futuregoals #whoswithme #lifeskills
When it comes to the garden planning, though, we work together. We usually plant our standards – beans, lettuce, carrots, corn, broccoli,…the list of usuals goes on. But this year I threw him some curve balls.
So when it was time to order seeds, I asked if he’d be up for planting white carrots, parsnips, and rutabaga this year.
We’ve never grown any of them. But he’s always up for a challenge.
Now that it’s fall we are enjoying a lot of our harvest. The white carrots taste pretty similar to orange. And I actually tolerate them! I haven’t been able to eat carrots in over ten years. (Side note – carrots were originally white. We made them orange!)
We’re still waiting for the parsnips. They are one of my absolute favorite veggies. But they won’t be harvested for a while yet.
Then there is the rutabaga.
What is Rutabaga?
A year ago if you had asked me what rutabaga was I would have looked at you funny. A what? I had never tasted rutabaga. I didn’t even know what it looked like!
I’m pretty sure that’s the norm. Most people don’t know anything about rutabaga. But that needs to change!
Rutabaga is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. It is a little sweeter than a turnip and not quite as “cabbagey” as a cabbage. A win-win in my book.
I’ll admit – it does look pretty strange. The outside is sort of orange and purple. It’s like an odd-looking softball. Truth be told it doesn’t look too appealing from the outside.
But inside is a beautiful, pale orange flesh that makes a great replacement for potatoes.
Rutabaga can grow well in cold climates and are said to have originated in Sweden. They are often referred to as “swedes.” Some people even carve them to ward off evil spirits.
How To Grow Rutabaga
If you are planning to grow rutabaga, figure on planting about 100 days before the first fall frost. They can be planted later than some of your other vegetables since they like the cool weather. The frost actually sweetens them a bit.
Rutabaga can be harvested when it is as small as three inches in diameter. But it can get MUCH larger. Some of ours got to be more like seven or eight inches!
Since this was our first year growing rutabaga I really didn’t know when to pick it. Now I know that smaller is actually better. The ones that got really big were fibrous and woody. The flavor was more bitter. I tried cooking them, but ultimately tossed them. Nobody could eat it.
Thankfully we did two separate plantings. I’m picking the second row much sooner! Next year we’ll plant them a bit later too.
You can store rutabaga for a long time in a cool place. At the store you’ll see a waxy coating on the outside to prevent it from drying. We simply store ours in the refrigerator after harvesting them. A root cellar would work too.
Is Rutabaga Healthy?
If you’re going to try a new, funny-looking vegetable, it better have some benefits, right? Rest assured, rutabaga packs a nutritional punch.
The most impressive nutritional component of rutabaga is Vitamin C. A one cup serving provides more than half of your daily value! Not many vegetables can say that.
They also contain a decent amount of calcium, magnesium, and fiber; in addition to other micronutrients like manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and some of the B Vitamins. [source]
Rutabaga makes a great alternative to potatoes, as they aren’t as starchy and have fewer than half the calories.
Rutabaga greens can also be eaten. You can use them the same way you would eat any other green, such as spinach, kale, and beet greens.
How to Cook Rutabaga
Although rutabaga looks a bit intimidating, it’s really quite easy to work with. Simply peel the outside, cut, and cook.
There are a variety of ways to cook rutabaga:
I personally love to cook rutabaga in the Instant Pot! I peel it and cut it into large chunks. Add 1 cup of water and all of the rutabaga to the pot. Ten minutes on high pressure and I’ve got tender veggies ready for a meal. Add butter and salt – DONE!
Most of my family enjoys rutabaga. But my oldest son and husband aren’t big fans. And I’m totally ok with that! I don’t force it on them. That being said, they will happily eat rutabaga in soup. It makes a great addition to any kind of soup or stew. It holds up well to a long cook time but is very tender, similar to a potato or carrot. I almost always add them to our soups now.
My favorite way to eat rutabaga is in the form of fries. You can get the recipe for rutabaga fries here. They are super kid-friendly!
But recently I branched out. I made a unique rutabaga hash. I also turned it into a delicious side dish – scalloped rutabaga. It was a big hit. Especially with my one-year old and five-year old! Layers of rutabaga cooked in milk and butter until soft and creamy.Print
- Peel rutabaga and cut in long, thin half strips.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Butter a 1 1/2 qt. covered casserole dish.
- Add a layer of rutabaga to the dish. Sprinkle with , garlic powder, onion, and a few dots of butter.
- Repeat layering until all of the rutabaga is used.
- Pour the milk into the dish.
- Cover and bake for 1 hour.
- Remove cover and continue baking for 20 – 30 minutes.
To make this completely dairy free, replace the butter with tallow or coconut oil, and use almond or rice milk.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 113
- Sugar: 7 g
- Sodium: 462 mg
- Fat: 5 g
- Carbohydrates: 17 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Cholesterol: 10 mg
Keywords: low starch, rutabaga, scalloped, dairy, baked, casserole
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Why We Should Try New Vegetables
Still not convinced to try this crazy-looking vegetable? It is rather ugly, isn’t it?
Trying new vegetables can be intimidating, especially for kids. But there is a benefit to branching out of your normal routine. Eating a wide variety of vegetables will give you a more diverse array of nutrients.
Just by replacing potatoes with rutabaga once in a while you’ll boost your Vitamin C intake! Which is good since just about everyone could use more.
When we modified our diet last year, it meant lots of experimenting and lots of research. In the process I learned just how important white fruits and vegetables are. They are often forgotten because everyone adheres to the “Eat the Rainbow” mentality these days. But don’t underestimate white vegetables. They pack a punch of nutrition!
Rutabaga, although a pale orange, falls into the white vegetable category. You can read about the health benefits of lots of other white fruits and vegetables here.
How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables
I know what you’re thinking. Maybe you’ll try rutabaga. It sounds pretty good, actually. But there is no way my kids will eat that!
Am I right?
Some parents require their kids try a few bites of a new food before accepting or rejecting it. That can work for some kids, but for others it can override their ability to listen to their bodies.
I’ve done it to myself in the name of health! I hear something is good for me, I make myself try it…and try it…and pretty soon I love it (even though I detested it at first). Then I find out it’s not healthy and it’s causing me problems.
I don’t want to do that to my children! Sadly I’ve done just that in the past — I made my son learn to like carrots. And he ended up with orange feet! Carotenemia.
Turns out that if you understand HOW your child eats before you worry about WHAT to feed them you’ll have better success. (Most parents are doing the opposite.) Some kids are excited to try new vegetables, while others will get anxiety over something new.
Understanding how your child eats best will make serving vegetables a breeze.
Check out my Eating Styles to understand exactly HOW to feed YOUR child. You never know — they just might be an Adventurous Eater that will jump at the chance to try something new! Then rutabaga can be on the menu tomorrow. But if you have an Analytical Eater, you might have to ease into this whole rutabaga thing…